Ontario closes provincial parks due to COVID-19 pandemic
People canoe in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, in this 2001 photo. (Ontario Tourism 2005 / The Canadian Press)
TORONTO -- Ontario is closing provincial parks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks says it decided to shutter the parks until April 30 to protect the health of employees and visitors.
Andrew Buttigieg, a spokesman for the parks minister, says staff will post signs at park entrances to notify people about the closures.
He says where possible, park entrances will be gated and buildings locked.
Buttigieg says ministry staff will get in touch people who are in the backcountry or at campgrounds to tell them about the closure.
They're being asked to leave by Thursday.
The closure includes all aspects of the parks, including day-use, car camping and backcountry camping.
"We understand that spending time in nature is important for the health and well-being of Ontarians," Buttigieg said in a written statement on Wednesday.
"However, in order to assist the province to further efforts in keeping employees and Ontarians safe during this time, the ministry made the decision to close provincial parks to the public."
The ministry said campground reservations up to April 30 will be cancelled automatically and a refund will be issued without the typical penalty fine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.